Obama, Romney tangle on al Qaeda, foreign policy in final presidential debate

  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question and President Barack Obama listens during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question and President Barack Obama listens during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
  • **FILE** President Obama (left) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney walk past each other onstage Oct. 22, 2012, at the end of the final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. (Associated Press)**FILE** President Obama (left) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney walk past each other onstage Oct. 22, 2012, at the end of the final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. (Associated Press)
  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney gives a thumbs up towards the crowd after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool, Win McNamee) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney gives a thumbs up towards the crowd after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool, Win McNamee)
  • Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, laughs as she pulls her husband away from the edge of the stage after the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, laughs as she pulls her husband away from the edge of the stage after the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  • President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney meet family members after  the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney meet family members after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)
  • President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greet moderator Bob Schieffer at the start of the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greet moderator Bob Schieffer at the start of the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)
  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, right, and President Barack Obama shake hands with audience members following the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, right, and President Barack Obama shake hands with audience members following the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his wife Ann react towards the audience after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his wife Ann react towards the audience after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
  • Moderator Bob Schieffer, center, watches as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left and President Barack Obama  wave to members of the audience during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Moderator Bob Schieffer, center, watches as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left and President Barack Obama wave to members of the audience during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
  • President Barack Obama and moderator Bob Schieffer, right, listen to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)President Barack Obama and moderator Bob Schieffer, right, listen to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • President Barack Obama speaks during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/David Goldman)President Barack Obama speaks during the third presidential debate with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
  • President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Pool-Rick Wilking)President Barack Obama listens as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Pool-Rick Wilking)
  • President Barack Obama answers a question as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the third presidential debate. (AP Photo/Pool, Win McNamee)President Barack Obama answers a question as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the third presidential debate. (AP Photo/Pool, Win McNamee)
  • President Barack Obama answers a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)President Barack Obama answers a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
  • Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee)Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama answer a question during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Pool-Win McNamee)
  • Moderator Bob Schieffer, center, watches as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama take their seats before the start of the last debate. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)Moderator Bob Schieffer, center, watches as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama take their seats before the start of the last debate. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  • Moderator Bob Schieffer, right, watches as President Barack Obama, center, shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Moderator Bob Schieffer, right, watches as President Barack Obama, center, shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the third presidential debate at Lynn University. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, second from left, and his wife Ann, left, sits in a holding room with his family before he participates in the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, second from left, and his wife Ann, left, sits in a holding room with his family before he participates in the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • The sun sets ahead of the presidential debate between Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)The sun sets ahead of the presidential debate between Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Workers pose for a photo with a life-sized cutout of President Barack Obama at a presidential debate fair on the campus of Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla., where President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will hold their final debate. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Workers pose for a photo with a life-sized cutout of President Barack Obama at a presidential debate fair on the campus of Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla., where President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will hold their final debate. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
  • Doris Smith, of Boynton Beach, Fla., wears buttons on her shirt before the presidential debate. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)Doris Smith, of Boynton Beach, Fla., wears buttons on her shirt before the presidential debate. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
  • Cutouts of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, sit behind an AARP display before the candidates' final debate. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)Cutouts of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, sit behind an AARP display before the candidates' final debate. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
  • Lynn University student Matt Alleva uses patriotic tubes to float on the water during a pre-debate pool party on campus, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will hold their final debate at Lynn University Monday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Lynn University student Matt Alleva uses patriotic tubes to float on the water during a pre-debate pool party on campus, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will hold their final debate at Lynn University Monday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Mitt Romney accused President Obama of failing to protect the military from budget cuts and squandering U.S. leadership in the Middle East, leaving America standing by as al Qaeda has surged to become active in a dozen countries, as the two men faced off Monday night in their final debate.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, repeatedly accused the Republican nominee of being an amateur on foreign policy — the subject of the night’s debate — and touted his own credentials, including overseeing the mission that killed Osama bin Laden and committing U.S. planes to a no-fly zone that aided Libyan rebels.

“I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” Mr. Obama said.

“Attacking me is not an agenda,” Mr. Romney retorted.

The foreign policy-focused debate served to highlight just how little daylight there is between the two men on the big basic foreign policy choices, ranging from handling the civil war in Syria to unequivocally backing Israel to using drones to attack terrorist targets to trying to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moderator Bob Schieffer, center, watches as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama shake hands before the start of the last debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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Moderator Bob Schieffer, center, watches as Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. ... more >

Mr. Romney even said he backed the same 2014 timeline Mr. Obama has laid out for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan — a matter where he’d tried to draw distinctions in previous remarks.

At one point, Mr. Obama said the key difference between the two candidates was that Mr. Romney embraced the Obama administration ideas, “but you’d say them louder.”

But Mr. Romney argued they differ in the overall tenor and tone they would take toward using U.S. leadership around the world, particularly in confronting radical Islam and al Qaeda.

“We can’t kill our way out of this mess,” Mr. Romney said, in the debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, as he sought to draw distinctions between himself and Mr. Obama, saying the U.S. must take more leadership to try to push the Muslim world toward moderation. “We must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.”

He again accused Mr. Obama of making “an apology tour” in the Middle East to express regret for past U.S. actions.

“In those nations and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that, on occasion, America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators,” Mr. Romney said.

But the president called the claim that he’s apologized “probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign.”

Mr. Obama led off the debate by defending his decision-making concerning Libya, where a terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador.

But that issue produced none of the fireworks from last week’s debate.

Instead, the president turned his fire on Mr. Romney, questioning what his foreign policy really is.

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